Our new Turok, unlike his forerunners, is not a dinosaur hunter (which is somewhat of a shame, as he would surely prove very able in the role). Instead, he’s an elite commando with a few skeletons in his closet. These skeletons were placed there by a man named Kane, a war criminal who once taught our boy Turok everything he knew. As Turok, your mission is to roll up on the desolate planet that Kane calls his home and bring your former mentor to task, a mission that is complicated by 1) your ship being shot down on entry and the majority of your crew killed; and 2) the planet being populated with Kane’s personal army, which stands at around three times the population of India.
So this is the big difference; your enemies are now distinctly human-shaped. While this might come as a disappointment to long-term Turok fans, we can assure you that along the way, you’ll be having your fair share of encounters with T-Rex’s, Utahraptors and other beasts with teeth as long as their names.
The war you wage against Kane’s troops takes place across the backdrop of a lost world. Prehistoric beasts of all shapes and sizes roam the land, politically neutral to the fight unfolding around them. Singularly, the majority of the dinosaurs will prove no match for our hero. While his arrows (and, to an extent, his guns) will prove largely ineffective against an approaching lizard-beast, his trusty knife proves more than an equaliser.
Turok can take down anything up to a medium-sized herbivore with a single slash of his knife. When an appropriate moment to strike occurs, an on-screen cue appears. A prompt response will unleash a brutal cut-away shot of Turok knifing up the dino good and proper. Mis-time your attack, and the dino will move in for the kill, activating a quick timed event. Failure to escape will result in a rapid, horrible death, but success will allow you the strength to push its snout out of the way, giving you a split-second to make your escape and regroup. Slaying dinosaurs with a single button press might not sound absorbing, but there’s a certain strategic thrill that comes with successfully strafing around a snarling dinosaur and moving in for the kill, particularly in levels where space is at a premium.
In a face-to-face battle, the smaller dinosaurs rarely prove much of a threat to you. However, they pose more of a hindrance while you’re waging war against Kane’s troops for the simple reason that they don’t retreat to their hidey-hole at the sound of gunfire. If anything, it seems to attract them, because despite our dino-buddies’ political neutrality, their stomachs have a vested interest in the conflict. Luckily, they find the flesh of Kane’s goons to be every bit as palatable as they do your own, so effectively - and this is the key to understanding how Turok really works - this primal third faction can be as beneficial to your personal cause as it can be deadly, and the hunters can so quickly become the hunted.
When you start out, it might seem that the dinos do little more than add a chaotic element to the proceedings. Often, you’ll find yourself lining up a shot on a far away enemy, only to find yourself flat on your back, staring upward at a maw of teeth. At first it’ll feel completely random, but to Turok’s credit the game is always fair about things. Mostly because it always gives you the chance to escape if you’re set upon by an unseen monster (no one-hit kills); but more importantly, as you grow more experienced, you’ll learn that you can ‘sense’ the monsters around you by listening for rustling noises or observing subtle movements in the grass. Other dinos slither down toward you from tree trunks, and even harmless herbivores can ram you to the floor if they feel threatened by your presence, so there are plenty of fairly neat behavioural patterns for you to learn - usually while bullets are pinging past your head, nonetheless.
Sometimes simply waiting turns out to be the best policy; if you manage to seek out a safe spot, you can watch as a passing dino trundles into an enemy outpost and munches on a platoon of troops, allowing you to sneak by undetected or, if you’re feeling particularly violent, hang around to pick off the survivors. Later on, flare guns can be employed to guide packs of dinos to precise points on the battlefield, or even turn them against each other, but that’s largely as far as the idea goes. It’s a good concept, and one that often makes for an interesting cerebral challenge during play, but it’s also one that can end up feeling slightly half-baked at times.
Here’s our main beef with Turok: aside from this dino/human interaction dynamic, you can count all of the game’s good ideas on one claw. It’s a standard issue first-person shooter. The weapons are flimsy, boring and unmemorable. The actual level layouts aren’t too bad, but there’s rarely much trouble taken to vary either the tasks you’re given or the enemies or creatures you encounter in any given single stretch - an issue that’s exacerbated by some pointedly stingy checkpoint placements, which stretches your patience.
Ultimately, Turok was always about the spectacle, and despite the numerous changes Propaganda Games has made to the formula, this one fact about the series remains. Turok still has its share of jaw-to-the-floor moments, but they’re few and far between, and we can see gamers trotting back to the shops for a refund before they come anywhere close to encountering one.
Above: Nom, nom, nom...
In short, it’s extremely generic - but the other side of this coin is that Turok is dependable. This re-launch’s failing is not that it does anything badly, just that its rivals do everything better. So is Turok’s story worth listening to? We suppose it is, but only after the asking price drops a bit.
Feb 6, 2008